Embrace the squeaky shopping cart

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This weekend I was visiting with my parents to celebrate Mom’s birthday. It was nice to be able to get away from work and spend time with family, no matter how brief.

There was a moment when I was out shopping that I had a little epiphany. I’m sure you have similar instances when a seemingly random object or event suddenly evokes greater meaning.

While out shopping, the cart I grabbed seemed just fine, but after a few steps it was quite clear this one had a problem with a wheel. It was loud, rattling and didn’t want to go straight. This was going to be a short trip in the store so I kept it.

The wheel announced my presence at the end of the aisles, and I got a few looks from some people. Others, it seemed, were doing their best not to acknowledge the loud noise.

And I started wondering why didn’t I just switch it out? But then just as quickly I was reminded that the cart itself isn’t defective. It’s fully functional. It’s getting the job done. There are just a few quirks along the way.

And I thought if we could approach people and interact with them in a similar way, life wouldn’t be so bad. Being patient with struggles, when things don’t come as easily, when we have trouble explaining ourselves or we need a little extra help. Or if there are physical disabilities or other things that might seem to be defects but really are just quirks. If we didn’t label and isolate and avoid, our community life would be better.

It’s easy to write people off as being weird or too different. Maybe they seem more disruptive, requiring more time and effort than it seems to be worth. But if we give people time to share, explain, try, work, and do, and we work toward breaking down the barriers, we’ll encounter the person. And by doing that, we’ll learn something more than what we think we’re after.

This weekend I came to the conclusion that the squeaky cart isn’t so bad. It just requires a little more effort.

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